The outbreak of COVID-19 is testing all of us. In a matter of days, life has changed drastically as schools and other public places close across the globe.
In Frisco ISD, administrators have had to rethink every single aspect of the District’s operations. Teachers have been tasked with quickly modifying and developing lessons that could be delivered online. Parents have been charged with balancing the demands of work and home while supporting their children’s learning. And students have had to adjust to this new normal without in-person interaction from the educators, classmates and others they have grown to love.
We are all rising to the challenge in these uncertain times.
“Without the hard work that our Frisco ISD staff has put into developing plans during this ever-changing situation, we would not be where we are today and able to continue to provide our students the education and services they deserve,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mike Waldrip.
Frisco ISD called off in-person classes as Spring Break drew to a close and the new coronavirus spread. Teachers began texting and calling each other to plan and prepare for virtual instruction. They set up new chat rooms and scheduled online meetings.
“I think it is fair to say we were all a bit anxious about what our next steps would be and how distance learning was going to look for our students - and us - but as soon as we logged in together, the normalcy of the way we worked kicked in and our concerns seemed to disappear,” said Frank Weiss, a math teacher and Advanced Placement facilitator at Reedy High School. “Our focus was singularly on what methods we could utilize to ensure all of our students could successfully display their learning and how we could provide opportunities for timely and individualized feedback.”
Thankfully, technology isn’t new to Frisco ISD educators and neither is out-of-the-box thinking. But this task was unlike anything ever thrown their way.
“I was incredibly anxious and worried at first,” said Scott Elementary art teacher Sarah Holden. “But after I sat down and started collaborating with peers and art teachers via social media, I began to feel at ease and now I am completely excited! There are so many projects that can be adapted with any art supplies students have available at home and part of being an artist is making creative decisions about what media to use.”
Frisco ISD teachers are finding support near and far, from collaboration with colleagues and helpful resources provided by the District’s curriculum and technology departments to social media hashtags and online networking groups for teachers.
“There are a lot of people out there lending a hand to teachers in need of virtual learning resources,” Holden said. “I am constantly on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep up with all of the amazing resources and ideas being shared throughout the art teacher community.”
Already, FISD teachers have learned new strategies and implemented exciting and innovative ideas.
“We have put a lot of time and thought into what we have created for the students,” said Danielle Williams, a social studies teacher and instructional coach at Wester Middle School. “This is a new process for ALL of us, but as teachers we are committed to not only delivering quality instruction but also being there for our students, whether it be through email or Google Chat. Teachers form relationships with their students and those relationships will not stop during eLearning. We will miss the face to face as much as the kids will!”
Teachers say they appreciate patience and understanding from families during this transition. When there are questions and concerns, students and parents are encouraged to reach out directly to teachers, who are keeping virtual office hours.
“I want students and parents to know that we are trying our best and we know that they are too,” Holden said. “This is completely new to every single one of us! There will be mistakes, glitches and links that don’t quite work the way we thought, but we are trying our best.
“My hope is that this experience will bring teachers and parents together to create a stronger partnership so that our students can succeed. We are all in this together...we always have been, but I think this experience will make that even more obvious!”
Frisco ISD is monitoring the success of the eLearning initiative and will make changes as needed based on feedback from teachers, students, families and administrators. Everyone is making the best of a difficult situation and learning from each other.
“We are intentionally working to create innovative ways in which we can still connect, support and facilitate authentic learning,” Weiss said. “Even though we are working in a very different capacity, our work efforts and the results of that work cannot and will not change. We don't know what challenges tomorrow will bring, but I'm certain that our teachers are ready for them, which means our students will be successful!”
Access the eLearning Frequently Asked Questions for more information about virtual instruction.